Minister’s ‘no show’ at key dementia event slammed

Kathleen Lynch has responsibility for the area, was not in a position to attend the conference due to prior commitments.

The Government has been accused of failing to make dementia a priority after neglecting to send a representative to an The Alzheimer’s Society of Irelandon the issue.

The Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland (ASI) expressed “concern and disappointment” that Ireland would not be attending the World Health Organisation (WHO) ministerial convention on dementia in Geneva, saying the move demonstrates “a worrying lack of commitment to addressing a major public health issue.”

The aim of the two-day conference, which began yesterday, was to place action on dementia higher on national and global political agendas, and to highlight the potential benefits of co-ordinated global action.

“This would have been an opportunity for the Irish Government to be part of this conversation, to be part of this leadership, and a real opportunity to show commitment to people in Ireland who are living with dementia,” said Tina Leonard, head of advocacy and public affairs at ASI.

“This amazing ministerial event is on for two days and we can’t even, never mind that a minister isn’t available, we can’t even find the resources or the time or the will to send an official there to send out a message to the 48,000 people in Ireland who have dementia and the 50,000 carers that this is a real commitment for us.”

According to the Department of Health, Minister Kathleen Lynch, who has responsibility for the area, was not in a position to attend the conference due to prior commitments — she is currently in Moscow to attend St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

While the department would not say why another representative was not sent, it said the implementation of the National Dementia Strategy “is a priority for the minister and the department and it is entirely wrong to suggest otherwise”. It also said it has “actively engaged” in formulating a statement of intent that will be presented to the convention.

While Ms Leonard welcomed the publication before Christmas of the National Dementia Strategy, she said it is “only a first step”.

“Thanks to Atlantic Philanthropies who put up some money, matched by the Government, there’s just under €30m for three specific actions; GP training, public awareness, and intensive homecare. So that’s all positive but that’s only a tiny bit of the picture,” she said.

“There’s no integrated care pathway for people post-diagnosis, not enough support post-diagnosis in terms of dementia advisers to signpost people, to tell them where to go, little or no support for the 4,000 people under 65 with dementia, not enough dementia specific homecare to enable people to live well in communities. So there are lots and lots of gaps and a lot to be done. We really need to see the commitment and political leadership on this.”

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